Members from the 2016 Washington Redskins rookie class joined four D.C. public schools for a recess event on Friday at Redskins Park. *
Before the 2016 Redskins rookie class made its way to the turf practice field, where 200 excited students from Washington, D.C., public schools were waiting for them, they sat in the Redskins Park auditorium preparing.
Lecturing and then facilitating an interactive breakout session, Athletes for Hope CEO Ivan Blumberg spoke to the collection of 21 drafted and undrafted rookies about the opportunities they have as athletes to make a difference in their new communities
They learned about Arthur Ashe, raising awareness about causes they care passionately about and engaged in some healthy debate about athletes' roles in giving back. In football terms, this was the pep talk, prepping them to head outside for the next hour and inspire groups from four different D.C. elementary schools, the first step towards interacting with their city's neighbors.
"We got to debate a lot of things, and discuss what we felt passionate for, and the ins and outs of those things," safety Su'a Cravens said of the session. "I feel educated."
The education was on display Friday as part of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation's Adopt-A-School Partnership, and the students, who couldn't wait to start running all over the field, were chosen for having excelled in the PBIS Program, which promotes and rewards positive behavior in school.
After splitting into five different groups the rookies became just as energetic as the kids. The recess stations included obstacles courses, football drills and even some hip-hop dancing classes, which saw some players embarrass themselves – quarterback Nate Sudfeld would admit so – and others feel right at home – Cravens, linebacker Anthony Lanier and running back Keith Marshall, to name just a few.
"I'm not the most gifted dancer," Sudfeld joked. "I think it's an awesome opportunity for all of us rookies and players on the Redskins to make an impact and touch the community around and impact lives around us. We didn't get here by ourselves, whether it was our communities back home, and I know how big a deal it would have been for a high school senior to talk to me as a little kid, let alone an NFL player."
As they learned in the auditorium, and then confirmed outside, most of the students prancing around the field have grown up in underserved communities.
Dr. Simon X. King, Director of strategy and logistics at Walker Jones Education Campus, knows how important a day like this is for them, to get away from their screens at home and engage in some "old school fun."
Redskins Rookies attended their first community event on Friday, May 20th, 2016. WRCF hosted 200 elementary school students for a "field day" and Play 60 clinic at Redskins Park.
"This is huge for them," King said. "It gives them a better perspective on what else is out there and many of them who participated back during football season, they came back more excited about school, because they saw that it can lead them to participating in something like this. The behavior gets better because they see it's really cool to do the right thing."
Running back Robert Kelly was just glad to put down the playbook for a change and get outdoors and in the sun. For Lanier, who spent half of the day showing off dance moves and teaching others how to move like him, Friday was an opportunity to show kids that anyone can achieve their goals.
"Yeah, it's good to get kids to come out and good that the school's doing this for them because you never know, some kids in their whole lifetime have never met professional people and think they can't do it," Lanier said. "They are just happy to have fun with you and other people who are outside of their environment who love them back."
Not every rookie will make the Redskins roster in 2016. But for the 21 representing the burgundy and gold on Friday, their presence was all that mattered.
"Being out here with the kids today was awesome," Sudfeld said. "I think that each kid should understand the importance of physical exercise and really getting outside, like Play 60 says, 60 minutes a day. That will really help you in the classroom and with playing sports. It will make you healthier as a person."